Blog Roundup

Sunday Blog Roundup – 6-30-2013

 

Texas Gov Rick Perry v. Single Moms

Bloomberg: We Stop Too Many Whites

Sunday Talk: Something for everyone

Obama faces an Africa hostile to gay rights

Biden: Virginia GOP Afraid Of The Tea Party

Video: Maddow to guest on Meet the Press this Sunday

Report: Edward Snowden A Hero To Russian TV Audiences

Media Matters staff: Hannity Declares Zimmerman Trial Over

Eric Cantor: DREAMers Shouldn’t Be ‘Kids Without A Country’

Wendy Davis: I’ll Fight ‘With Every Fiber’ To Defeat Abortion Bill

 

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: June 29, 2013

President Obama and the first lady are greeted by a state official as they arrive in South Africa on June 28.

The Week

Obama visits South Africa, Edward Snowden’s father tries to bring him back home, and more

1. NELSON MANDELA’S CONDITION IMPROVES AS OBAMA LANDS IN SOUTH AFRICA
The condition of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela is improving, according to his ex-wife Winnie. President Barack Obama, who landed in Johannesburg on Friday, is visiting the spot where Mandela spent 18 years in an apartheid prison, but insisted that he doesn’t need a “photo op” with the former South African president. [Reuters]
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2. SNOWDEN’S FATHER PROPOSES DEAL FOR RETURN OF HIS SON
The father of NSA leaker Edward Snowden wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder proposing a deal he said would likely bring his son back to the United States. The conditions included a promise that Snowden remain free prior to the trial, be able to choose his trial location, and not be subject to a gag order. [CNN]
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3. HEAT WAVE BLASTS WESTERN UNITED STATES
Temperatures are expected to climb well above 100 degrees in the Southwest and parts of California, including expected highs of 130 degrees in Death Valley, 118 degrees in Phoenix, and 117 degrees in Las Vegas. Airlines have warned of delays if it becomes too hot to fly. [CBS News]
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4. BUBBLEGUM INTRODUCED AS EVIDENCE IN AARON HERNANDEZ CASE
Prosecutors have introduced new evidence in the murder case of NFL player Aaron Hernandez, including a trail of blue bubblegum found near the scene of the crime. The victim, Odin Lloyd, was found dead in a gravel pit near Hernandez’s North Attleborough, Mass., home. [CNN]
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5. EGYPTIAN OFFICIAL WARNS OF CIVIL WAR
Egypt’s highest religious authority warned of an impending civil war as fights broke out ahead of massive planned protests. The mostly secular protesters have complained that President Mohamed Morsi is corrupt and incompetent, while those in the Muslim Brotherhood have defended Morsi’s presidency. [New York Times]
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6. U.S. ARMY BANS GUARDIAN
The U.S. Army banned its members from reading the website of The Guardian, the publication that broke several stories about the National Security Agency’s surveillance program. An Army spokesman confirmed that it had filtered “some access to press coverage and online content about the NSA leaks.” [Monterey County Herald]
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7. WOMAN INDICTED IN OBAMA RICIN CASE
Shannon Richardson, 35, was indicted on charges of sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The FBI had originally arrested Richardson’s former husband, Nathan, before Shannon admitted she had committed the crime. [CBS]
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8. U.K. DEBATES THREE-PARENT BABIES
A medical procedure that combines three people’s DNA in one embryo is being debated in England. Genetic material is taken from the egg of a woman with faulty mitochondria, placed into a healthy embryo, and then transferred back to the mother. It is meant to prevent mothers from passing on conditions like muscular dystrophy and epilepsy to their children. [The Telegraph]
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9. GOLD TREASURES FOUND IN 1,200-YEAR-OLD PERUVIAN TOMB
Gold and silver artifacts were discovered in a tomb north of Lima, Peru, belonging to the pre-Inca civilization of the Wari people. More than 1,000 items belonging to 63 people were found, including gold jewelry, silver bowls, and bronze ritual axes. [NBC]
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10. ALEC BALDWIN GOES ON TWITTER RANT
Actor Alec Baldwin was criticized for a series of angry, expletive-filled tweets directed at Daily Mail reporter George Stark, who had reported that Baldwin’s wife, Hilaria, was tweeting during the funeral service of the late James Gandolfini. [Entertainment Weekly]

Washington Post

Darrell Issa and the overblown scandals

The Washington Post – Dana Milbank

This is how a scandal implodes:

First, the head of the investigation overpromises. “This was a targeting of the president’s political enemies, effectively, and lies about it during the election year so that it wasn’t discovered until afterwards,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House oversight committee, said in May of the IRS targeting scandal. He later declared President Obama’s press secretary a “paid liar” for stating otherwise.

Next, facts emerge to undermine the investigator’s presuppositions. Documents released by Ways and Means committee Democrats this week show that the IRS, in addition to targeting tea party groups, also had “Be on the Lookout” (BOLO) lists for groups using descriptors such as “progressive,” “health care legislation,” “medical marijuana,” “paying national debt” and “green energy.”

Finally, evidence surfaces that the investigator stacked the deck. Tuesday night, the Hill newspaper quoted a spokesman for Treasury’s inspector general, Russell George, saying the group was asked by Issa “to narrowly focus on tea party organizations.” The inspectors knew there were other terms, but “that was outside the scope of our audit.”

Certainly, something went badly wrong at the IRS that caused groups to be targeted because of ideology. But it’s nothing like the conspiracy Issa cooked up in which the president and his men supposedly used the tax authority to attack their political foes.

The White House deserves some of the blame for letting things get this far; a full release of information by the administration at the outset would have put the controversy to rest quickly. But the collapse of the Issa-driven scandal has reinforced a growing impression in the capital that ultimately will help Obama: The chairman is full of it.

When I covered President Clinton’s second term, White House officials were delighted to have the eccentric Dan Burton in charge of the House oversight committee. He gained prominence by shooting a melon to try to prove that Clinton aide Vince Foster hadn’t killed himself but had been murdered.

Now Issa has fallen to Burtonian levels of credibility. He’s launched a dozen or so probes, but what often begins as a legitimate inquiry into government failure turns quickly into a lunge for the Oval Office, missing each time.

Even before the Republican victory in 2010 gave him the chairmanship, Issa announced the discovery of “Obama’s Watergate” — the White House floating an administration job for a Democratic congressman to keep him out of a Senate primary. Issa backed off after learning that the Bush administration had done similar things.

Shortly before the 2010 election, Issa told Rush Limbaugh that Obama “has been one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.” He later said Obama isn’t “personally corrupt” but his administration is.

Issa then set out to prove it. He led a probe into the failed “Fast and Furious” gun sting by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Issa declared that “it went all the way to the White House,” insisting that the plan was approved “at the highest levels of the Obama appointees,” and that the Justice Department “has blood on their hands.”

The Justice Department inspector general determined that Attorney General Eric Holder didn’t even know about the program until after it was shut down.

After the failure of Solyndra, a government-aided solar company, Issa probed Energy Department loan guarantees, saying “I want to see when the president and his cronies are picking winners and losers … that it wasn’t because there were large contributions given to them.”

The committee documented no cronyism and no presidential involvement.

Issa probed the response to Freedom of Information Act requests by the Department of Homeland Security, saying the matter “reeks of a Nixonian enemies list, and this committee will not tolerate it.”

Nothing Nixonian surfaced.

After the killing of U.S. officials in Benghazi, Libya, Issa accused then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of giving false information to Congress when she said she wasn’t involved in denying the Libyan diplomats’ security requests. He also said that it was “perhaps the White House” that later changed talking points to make it appear that the assault had begun as a protest.

It turned out Clinton wasn’t involved in the security decision and the White House wasn’t behind the change in the talking points.

Then came the IRS. Instead of delivering on Issa’s promise to reveal politically motivated harassment of conservatives by the Obama administration, the committee instead turned up evidence (including the account of a “conservative Republican” who managed IRS screening) that the actions weren’t political.

The most Issa et al. can hope to prove now is that conservatives were hassled by the IRS more than liberals. That’s a worthy topic to explore, but it’s no Watergate.

Gov. Rick Perry

Rick Perry says he was “Praising” Wendy Davis

Sure you were, Governor Perry.  With that snark in your tone, you acted more like a gossiping teenager, spreading rumors.

TMPLivewire

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) on Friday explained that he was simply “praising” state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) when he said it was “unfortunate” that she didn’t view abortions unfavorably based on her own experience as a teenage mother.

In a statement to the New York Daily News, the governor’s office explained that he was “praising Sen. Davis for her success despite coming from difficult circumstances.”

Davis, who led a 13-hour filibuster earlier this week to block passage of a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, responded on Thursday, chiding Perry for using “small words” that tarnished Lone Star state values.

“They are small words that reflect a dark and negative point of view,” she said in a statement. “Our governor should reflect our Texas values. Sadly, Gov. Perry fails that test.”

In his remarks at the National Right to Life conference in Dallas, Texas, Perry invoked Davis as someone who was born into hard circumstances but ultimately became a successful Harvard educated lawyer.

“Who are we to say that children born into the worst of circumstances can’t grow to live successful lives?” he asked. “She was the daughter of as single woman, she was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas senate. It is just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters.”

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: June 28, 2013

Thousands gather for an immigration reform rally in downtown Los Angeles, May 1.
Thousands gather for an immigration reform rally in downtown Los Angeles, May 1.

The Week

The Senate passes a sweeping immigration overhaul, protesters greet President Obama in South Africa, and more

1. IMMIGRATION OVERHAUL PASSES SENATE
The Senate voted Thursday to approve the so-called Gang of Eight’s sweeping immigration reform bill. The centerpiece of the legislation is a provision that would allow the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. to apply for citizenship after meeting benchmarks over 13 years. The proposal now goes to the Republican-dominated House, which plans to consider a narrower version with no path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants. [New York Times]
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2. OBAMA HEADS TO SOUTH AFRICA
President Obama heads to South Africa Friday on the second leg of his Africa tour. During his first stop, in Senegal, Obama received a warm welcome, but in South Africa students and unions marked Obama’s arrival with protests against his use of armed drones against suspected Islamist insurgents and other foreign policies. The trip also could be overshadowed by public concern for the health of anti-Apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, 94, who is hospitalized in critical condition. [USA TodayReuters]
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3. TSARNAEV FORMALLY INDICTED FOR BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING
The surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was formally indictedThursday on 30 charges, including using weapons of mass destruction and killing four people. Seventeen of the charges released by a federal grand jury carry the possibility of the death penalty. The indictment says Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan, who died in a shootout with police, planned the attack for months after downloading bomb-making instructions from an al Qaeda magazine. [Boston Globe]
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4. SOPRANOS CAST AND OTHER ADMIRERS ATTEND JAMES GANDOLFINI’S FUNERAL
Friends and relatives gathered Thursday for the funeral of Sopranos star James Gandolfini, who died last week of a heart attack in Italy at age 51. The actor’s Sopranos co-stars were among the 1,800 people who attended the service at a New York City cathedral. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was there, too. Colleagues eulogized Gandolfini as a caring man who tapped into his own vulnerability to become a great actor, and create one of the most iconic characters in TV history. [USA Today]
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5. U.S. SUSPENDS BANGLADESH’S TRADE PRIVILEGES OVER SAFETY CONCERNS
Leaders in Bangladesh on Friday angrily criticized a decision by President Obama to suspend trade benefits to their country over concerns for worker safety and labor rights. The move came after a yearlong U.S. review of working conditions in Bangladesh, where 1,127 people died in April when a building housing clothing factories collapsed. The suspension was mostly symbolic, though, as the country’s garment exports were not eligible for U.S. duty cuts in the first place. [BBC News]
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6. QVC DROPS PAULA DEEN
Shopping channel QVC on Thursday became the latest company to break ties with Paula Deen following revelations that she has used racially offensive language in the past. The Food Network, Smithfield hams, Target, Home Depot, and Walmart have also dropped the embattled queen of high-calorie, Southern cooking. QVC said it was open to giving Deen a second chance some day. Fans are rallying behind Deen, and her next cookbook, due in October, shot to No. 1 at Amazon. [ABC News]
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7. ZIMMERMAN LAWYER CHALLENGES TESTIMONY OF TRAYVON MARTIN’S FRIEND
An attorney defending George Zimmerman against murder charges clashed Thursday with the prosecution’s star witness, 19-year-old Rachel Jeantel, who was on the phone with Trayvon Martin shortly before Zimmerman shot the unarmed black teen. Jeantel said Martin told her a “creepy-ass cracker” was following him, and maintained that Zimmerman was the one who confronted Martin. Zimmerman says he fired in self-defense after Martin jumped him. [Associated Press]
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8. ECUADOR’S PRESIDENT SLAMS THE U.S. OVER SNOWDEN THREATS
In a fiery speech, Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, vowed not to bend to U.S. pressure to reject former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s request for asylum. After a U.S. State Department spokesman warned that the South American nation’s economic ties with the U.S. could be jeopardized if it helps Snowden escape espionage charges for leaking classified information, Correa preemptively renounced preferential tariffs for his country’s exports, calling Washington’s pressure “outrageous.” [CNN]
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9. RETIRED GENERAL BECOMES THE FOCUS OF A LEAK INVESTIGATION
A retired Marine general who was once among President Obama’s favorite military advisers is the target of an investigation into the leak of classified information about U.S. cyberattacks intended to slow Iran’s progress toward building a nuclear bomb. The general, James E. Cartwright, was once the second highest ranking officer in the U.S. military, serving as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011. A lawyer for Cartwright declined to comment. [New York Times]
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10. WESTERN BLACK RHINO IS DECLARED EXTINCT
The world’s largest conservation network has declared Africa’s western black rhino to be officially extinct due to poaching and insufficient conservation efforts. The International Union for Conservation of Nature warned that the subspecies of the black rhino — last seen in western Africa in 2006 — might not be the only one to vanish. The IUCN also warns that Africa’s northern white rhino is “teetering on the brink of extinction,” and Asia’s Javan rhino is “making its last stand.” [CNN]

The Obamas

POTUS and FLOTUS Visit Goree Island

Photo: POTUS & FLOTUS look out doorway that slaves departed from on Goree Island!! Oh, the history, heartbreak and sorrow those walls must have absorbed over the centuries...
POTUS & FLOTUS look out doorway on an island off Senegal where slaves were held until being shipped to North America, South America and the British Colonies during the early centuries of the infamous slave trade.

My soul literally weeps for the history, heartbreak and sorrow those walls have absorbed over the centuries…

 

 

Benghazi · Fox News Distortions · Fox News Lies

No Benghazi “Stand Down” Order Was Given: Another Fox Narrative Falls Apart

Media Matters

Narrative Was Pushed In 85 Fox Primetime Segments

A claim pushed dozens of times by Fox News that security forces were ordered to “stand down” during the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility collapsed after the commander of those security forces testified that he received no such order.

More than a month after the attacks in Benghazi killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, Fox began airing accusations that security forces present in Libya at the time were ordered to “stand down” by the Obama administration. Fox’s confused coverage over the months claimed that both a reaction force that was dispatched to Benghazi and suffered two casualties while trying to defend the facility, and a group of four special forces troops in Tripoli received “stand down” orders. This accusation was given new fuel after former Deputy Chief of Mission Gregory Hicks May 8 remarks made before a congressional committee appeared to confirm claims that Lt. Col. Gibson, who commanded a small team of special forces troops in Tripoli, was ordered to “stand down.” Fox baselessly speculated that either President Obama or then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta gave the alleged order.

A search of the Nexis database shows that the accusation that these security forces were ordered to “stand down” was made in 85 segments on the network’s primetime shows by Fox hosts, contributors, guests, and in video accompanying news reports and commentary.

But now even Republicans are admitting that a “stand down” order was never given. According to The Associated Press, Gibson told a Republican-led congressional committee on June 26 that he was never ordered to “stand down.”

The former commander of a four-member Army Special Forces unit in Tripoli, Libya, denied Wednesday that he was told to stand down during last year’s deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

In a closed-door session with the House Armed Services Committee, Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson said his commanders told him to remain in the capital of Tripoli to defend Americans in the event of additional attacks and to help survivors being evacuated from Benghazi.

“Contrary to news reports, Gibson was not ordered to ‘stand down’ by higher command authorities in response to his understandable desire to lead a group of three other special forces soldiers to Benghazi,” the Republican-led committee said in a summary of its classified briefing with military officials, including Gibson.

This is not the first time the Fox “stand down” narrative has been discredited. The day before Hicks’ May 8 testimony, a Pentagon spokesman stated that there “was never any kind of stand down order to anybody.” After Hicks’ testimony, a Pentagon spokesman further explained that the security forces in Tripoli “were told to stay” in Tripoli to help with the security there. On June 12, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reaffirmed this point, telling Congress:

GEN. DEMPSEY: They weren’t told to stand down. A stand down means don’t do anything. They were told to — that the mission they were asked to perform was not in Benghazi but was at Tripoli Airport.

Continue reading here

Zimmerman Trial

Thank You, Rachel Jeantel

Rachel Jeantel watches defense attorney Don West while on the stand during George Zimmerman’s trial for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. (Reuters/Jacob Langston/Pool)

If you’re not paying attention to the Zimmerman murder trial, then the name Rachel Jeantel will mean nothing to you.  If in fact you are as riveted as many on the social networks seem to be, then you not only know that she’s the Prosecutors’ “star” witness, but that she is also a reluctant one.

There have been mainly negative commentaries all over the networks  and social media regarding Ms. Jentel’s demeanor on Wednesday (her first appearance in front of the jury) and her subsequent appearance on Thursday.  The consensus was not in her favor.  The author of the following article sees things from a different perspective…

The Nation

Rachel Jeantel was the last person to speak to Trayvon Martin before George Zimmerman killed him on the night of February 26, 2012. On the third day of Zimmerman’s murder trial, after opening statements that featured the words “fucking punks” and knock-knock joke, and testimony from a number of witnesses, Rachel took the stand.

Visibly shaken, Rachel recounted the details of her phone conversation with Trayvon the night he was killed. She says he told her that a “creepy-ass cracker” was watching him. He attempted to lose him, but the man kept following, at which point Rachel suggested that Trayvon run. The phone was disconnected shortly after, and when the two were reconnected, Trayvon told Rachel, “The nigga is behind me.” Rachel then heard a bump, the sounds of “wet grass,” and what she thought to be Trayvon saying, “Get off.”

The court took a recess after the state was finished questioning Rachel, as she was too broken up to continue at that moment. When they returned, Don West, a lawyer on Zimmerman’s defense team, resumed the questioning. Rachel’s demeanor noticeably shifted. She became agitated, answering West’s questions with quick “yes”es and exasperated “no”s. The more tedious the questions, the more frustrated she became. She was looking at a man trying to get someone off for killing her friend. West was doing what a defense lawyer does, of course, by trying to catch Rachel in a lie, poke holes in her story and cast doubt on her credibility. And the way she responded reflected the fact she knew exactly what was going on and she was determined not to let him rattle her. She may have frustrated him just as much as he did her.

Rachel’s testimony is an emotional reminder of just what happened. A teenage boy was killed. His family and friends were left to mourn. For some of them, the pain is still fresh. The man responsible walked free for more than a month. There’s a possibility he could be found not guilty.

Several times, West brought up the fact Rachel lied about her reasons for not attending Trayvon’s wake. “You. Got. To. Un. Der. Stand,” she told West, breaking up each syllable to emphasize her frustration. “I’m the last person—you don’t know how I felt. You think I really want to go see the body after I just talked to him?”

Rachel Jeantel isn’t a Hollywood actress. She’s not a trained professional. She doesn’t testify in court regularly. She’s a young black woman missing her friend. She showed up to court to give all the information she had as to what happened the night he died.

“Are you listening?” she asked West at highly contentious point her testimony where it seemed he had either lost interest or chosen to ignore the things she was saying. How many young black women could ask that question to the world daily? We should be listening more. We should hear what the Rachels of the world have to say. It’s unclear how Rachel’s testimony will affect the jury and the ultimate outcome, whether they’ll read her as hostile and uncooperative. No matter what, though, Rachel stood and defended herself and Trayvon (and frankly, many other black youth) against the condescension, against silencing, and against the character attacks. For that, she should be commended and thanked.

Thank you, Rachel Jeantel.

Mychal Denzel Smith on why justice for Trayvon Martin’s death may never come.

Immigration Reform

BREAKING: Senate Passes Historic Immigration Reform

Think Progress

On Thursday afternoon, an immigration reform bill that would affect millions of undocumented immigrants was approved by a final vote of 68 to 32 in the Senate. The bill puts up to 11 million undocumented immigrants on a pathway to citizenship and enforces tough border security measures. Vice President Joe Biden presided over the historic vote, in which all the senators were required to vote from their desks. The Senate gallery was packed with exuberant DREAMers, undocumented youths who were brought to the U.S. by their parents. The gallery chanted “Yes we can” after the bill was officially passed.

After the cloture vote occurred early Thursday afternoon, politicians on both sides of the aisle spoke emotionally about the need to pass the bill.

House Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) teared up as he spoke of his wife’s father, who immigrated from Russia, and reflected on the letters sent to him by undocumented individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children and raised in fear of deportation. He compared present-day immigrants to all the previous waves of immigrants, notably lauding the achievements that these new Americans could contribute:

It recognizes that today’s immigrants came for the very same reason as generations before them– to achieve a dream we take for granted, the right to live in the land of the free.

Across the aisle, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) invoked his immigrant parents as he argued passionately that immigration reform will help future generations to fulfill their dreams:

Here, immigrants will give their children the life they once wanted for themselves. Here generations of unfulfilled dreams will finally come to pass.Even with all our challenges, we remain the shining city on the hill. We are still the hope of the world. And in the end, that is why I support this reform. Yes, I believe in immigrants, but I believe in America even more.

The bill now faces an uphill battle in the House, where many Republican congressmen have vowed their opposition to any kind of an immigration deal that includes a pathway to citizenship. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has promised that he would not advance a reform bill without a majority agreement by House Republicans.